Chelys-Lyra, Greece, 400 BCE
Used in classical Athens, the Chelys-Lyra is a lyre consisting of a tortoise-shell sound compartment with skin stretched over the opening. Two bars with a crossbar attached extend from the shell and hold the strings. Compared to other Greek instruments of the time, the Chelys-Lyra was small and light, a versatile instrument which could be played sitting, standing or walking. It was played by both men and women, although it is most often depicted in art being played by a man.
Method of Construction
Constructed by: Jolly Killmer, ’97
In reconstructing this instrument, I relied on pictures taken from ancient pottery, which didn’t clearly show how the tuning mechanisms worked. Some showed a thin strip of wood or metal with holes in it to which the strings are attached, but since I wanted to make sure the lyre would be playable I used pegs instead of a strip. In addition, since I didn’t have access to a tortoise shell, I constructed the sound box out of wood.
Sources, Resources and Links
An image of a Chelys-Lyra on a vase is available at the University of Pennsylvania Museum.